The Tantra has been widely misunderstood as a path of spiritual development. Sri Aurobindo points out that “Nevertheless, in its origin Tantra was a great and puissant system founded upon ideas which were at least partially true.” The concept behind the Tantra was that all energies and powers of life were divine and therefore, the courageous embracing of all aspects of life could lead to a divine realisation. There were unfortunately some who interpreted this as a license for all manner of practices, as Sri Aurobindo describes it “…a method of self-indulgence, a method of unrestrained social immorality.” This is what caused the widespread controversy about Tantra itself.
In its essence, the Tantric path is not limited to what has become known as the “left-handed path” (Vamamarga). There is also a “right-handed path” (Dakshinamarga), and of course, the popular idea of the left-handed path does not represent it in its actual underlying sense.
“In the ancient symbolic sense of the words Dakshina and Vama, it was the distinction between the way of Knowledge and the way of Ananda,–Nature in man liberating itself by right discrimination in power and practice of its own energies, elements and potentialities and Nature in man liberating itself by joyous acceptance in power and practice of its own energies, elements and potentialities.”
The power of this path stems from its open-eyed acceptance of the divine Power of Nature and a willingness to accept the Divinity in all of Life. The Tantra, rather than embracing an other-worldly abandonment of life, dives into and accepts life.
The core principles are sound, but the practice over time deteriorated as it became an excuse for indulgence and untransformed fulfillment of desires of various sorts. “But in both paths there was in the end an obscuration of principles, a deformation of symbols and a fall.”
There is still much that can be learned and appreciated from a truer understanding of the essence of Tantra.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 5, Synthesis, pp. 37-38